It’s 2016 and the world is but one small village. With technology, digitization and the Internet, all that we learnt as children about geographical boundaries and the limitations of being in different countries have altered. The very fact that a farmer in rural India can learn about new irrigation techniques being used in the US shows how just about everything is within reach.
It is but natural that organizations have also become fluid and started realizing that they have to come out of their oysters and think of business beyond boundaries. Today’s economy presents massive opportunities for companies small and big, to reach out to clients, suppliers and other stakeholders across the value chain and from around the globe, in order to create a successful business. When companies realize that the potential to enhance business and open revenue streams can come from new customers in different countries, their policies must also allow for the company to function accordingly. Earlier mobility had a restricted meaning of providing employees with tools that made work accessible anytime anywhere, through the means of email, Blackberry and mail clients. But today, one of the most important things to do is to make the employee accessible and hence mobile. And this has to be across both functions and geographies.
Internally, mobility is possible when managers are open to the idea of their productive team members moving to different roles. According to a study by Cornerstone in 2014, surprisingly only 4% of organizations actively encouraged employees to maintain a current or compelling profile in order to get the attention of a hiring manager. Also to keep employees interested, the organization has to pander to their need for a role they are passionate about and a job they care about. It helps build a more loyal workforce that knows that the company is flexible enough to accommodate their need for change and growth.
Externally though, mobility is a much larger and more important field of work for HR managers. A number of jobs today require the employee to be open to moving out of one’s home country and comfort zone. The good part is that employees today do like to move to new locations, learn new things, perform new roles and add value to their career profiles. Moving always brings a certain freshness to the work you do and helps boost one’s effectiveness. Also, multicultural exposure and the understanding of different people helps widen the employee’s perspective about various things – the way people perceive work, the importance they give to personal lives, behavioral, attitudinal and cultural differences, how they deal with stress etc. All this adds to one’s life experience and shapes their decisions in the future.
So how does one assist, enable and enhance employee mobility? An organization that aims to grow beyond boundaries will be more malleable and accommodating to sending its employees to different locations if the business requires it. There must be careful assessment and selection of the candidates for international assignments depending on need, budget, duration etc. Considerable investment in analysis of the talent pool is required so that when it comes to selecting the right candidates, those fitting the criteria are easily picked. Orientation to the new place must be provided to the candidates. Spoon feeding is of course neither possible nor acceptable, but the organization can help them understand the culture, its sensitive nuances and basic language and etiquette skills as well. It is very important for a foreigner to be sensitive to a country or region’s cultural and religious sensibilities. Apart from this, there are differences in the cost and quality of living between different places, which must be taken care of by HR.
In order to ensure smooth employee mobility, companies must invest in a strategic plan that will outline business needs that require mobility, what is involved in internal and external mobility, how it is executed and the caveats to be kept in mind. There should also be gender balances and no bias in the process. Tax implications, cost management and process control are all part of a successful mobility program. Keeping all this in mind, organizations can do a lot with effective mobility strategies and achieve higher business goals.